This article is an excerpt from Distinct: Living Above the Norm, a 6-week study from Bible Studies for Life. Learn more about this curriculum and preview three sessions for free at lifeway.com/biblestudiesforlife.
Love with God’s Love
For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matt. 5:46)
In America today, we “love” everything. Think about all the ways you use that four-letter word during a given week. We love burgers, children, puppies, ice cream, college football, spring days, vacations, action movies, romantic movies, and gazillions of other things.
Isn’t it amazing that, with the wealth of words we have at our disposal in the English language, we use the same term to describe our feelings about a hot dog as we do to describe our relationship with our mothers? Surely we can’t feel the same way about a cat video on the Internet as we do about our own children.
Most of the time, we use the word love to describe anything that makes us feel good at a given moment. With that definition, it’s no wonder we fall out of love with people at about the same rate we fall out of love with certain kinds of food.
Jesus calls us to something more. As His followers, we are called to love in the way He does. That standard of love is unconditional and knows no limits.
Most of the world operates by a simple premise: Love those who love you. In this worldview, people only get into relationships for what they can gain from them. Every relationship is self-serving; thus, if a relationship ceases to give you what you want, you simply move onto the next one. The kingdom of God does not operate that way.
Jesus called us to love those who feel animosity and even hatred toward us. He gave us an example from weather: when the rain falls, the evil receives the benefit in the same way the righteous do. This is God’s “common grace.” It’s “common” because He extends it to everyone. This doesn’t mean God approves of everything that happens on the earth. It only means God’s love is completely distinct from our love. He extends His love to people not because they love Him, but because it’s in His character to do so.
Jesus gave us marching orders: love and pray. And don’t just pray for people who wish you good; also pray for those who wish you evil. When we pray for someone who is difficult to love, we will find our hearts being bent toward that person. The reason is simple: it’s hard to hate someone you are asking God to bless and help.
Prayer also expresses our love and is one of the best ways we have to express our love for someone. We are asking the God of the universe to exercise His power on behalf of someone else, for his or her good. That’s powerful!
If we only love those who love us in return, that’s easy. Jesus calls His followers to a harder kind of love. He wants us to put ourselves out there, risk rejection and ridicule, and then do it all over again—with no thought of reciprocation. Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Excerpted from Michael Kelley, Distinct: Living Above the Norm © 2015 Lifeway Press®. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.